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Media, Politics and Justice - Spotlight on Thierry Jean-Pierre

Trouille, Helen ORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0383-8920 (1999) Media, Politics and Justice - Spotlight on Thierry Jean-Pierre. Contemporary French Civilization, 23 (1). pp. 81-94.

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The recent proliferation of corruption scandals in French public life during the 1980s-90s has taken France by storm. We have seen high-level politico-public scandals, such as the ‘affaire du sang contaminé’; the illicit financing of political parties and court cases involving high-ranking political figures (let us take the Emmanuelli case); suspicious get-rich-quick practices operated by certain company directors (for example Jacques Crozemarie’s lucrative ‘fund-raising’ for the ARC - Association pour la recherche contre le cancer) and self-interest conquering all on the Paris housing market (we need only glance in the direction of the Tiberis), to name but a few. This profusion of scandal provokes two interpretations: the first suggests that French public and political figures have become decidedly more corrupt (or at the very least more careless and caught more frequently with their hands in the till); the second that the forces of law and order are proving more efficient at tracking down and more dogged in their determination to investigate and bring to court crimes committed by high-ranking notables. It is no doubt unlikely that human nature has changed dramatically over the centuries and not difficult to accept that shady dealings have always gone on in these spheres. Therefore, we must conclude that the second of these interpretations is most likely to be the more accurate. A deep sense of injustice seems to prevail amongst some who feel that, in the past, those in power have been able to abuse their positions and have placed themselves beyond the Law. Recently, we have found a number of still comparatively young juges d’instruction - examining magistrates responsible for leading investigations in criminal cases - anxious to redress the balance, keen to ‘take on’ those in authority. The most well-known of these are probably Edith Boizette, expert in investigating financial scandal, Eric Halphen, known for his role in delving into the Tiberi dealings, Eva Joly and Laurence Vichnievsky, noted for their investigations into Roland Dumas' affairs, and Thierry Jean-Pierre and Renaud van Ruymbeke, who hit the headlines in connection with the Urba affair and illegal financing of the Parti socialiste. These battles, pitting Davids against Goliaths, have often appeared exceptionally aggressive and have led many to question whether those heading the enquiries are simply extending justice to a historically previously privileged class, as they maintain, or are seizing eagerly upon a chance to make important public figures ‘pay’, gaining public recognition in the process. The affaires themselves have filled column after column in the press; the juges d’instruction investigating them have also, in unprecedented manner, been the subjects of many interviews and news articles, often likened, in their attempts to clean up society, to the legendary character Zorro, Mexican hero and justicier masqué, who anonymously rode to the assistance of those oppressed by the rich and powerful. Apart from the obvious differences - not least in terms of garb and mode of transport - there is one other major consideration which makes the comparison rather inappropriate: the identity of the Zorros de la justice is no mystery. They do not hide behind a mask, and if not actually playing to the media, manage with difficulty to resist that vital interview with that key journalist. One cannot refrain from asking - are their attempts to tackle high-level crime purely altruistic and aimed at providing a better society in which to live, or are these people cold and calculating ‘ayant simplement trouvé un chemin rapide vers la notoriété?’ Is the mix of media, politics and justice a happy one?

Item Type: Article
Status: Published
DOI: https://doi.org/10.3828/cfc.1999.23.1.005
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
K Law > K Law (General)
School/Department: York Business School
URI: https://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/5211

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